Saugeen Shores councillors want to help the court challenge to stop the Unifor wind turbine from operating in Port Elgin, but legal concerns halted debate on the level of that support at the Feb. 12. committee of the whole meeting. The issue was referred pending additional legal advice.
Councillors appeared ready to approve a $25,000 donation to support the court case being mounted by S.T.O.P. (Saugeen Shores Turbine Operation Policy)
for a judicial review of a Minister of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) decision to make noise testing mandatory, not voluntary, to determine if the Unifor turbine at Gobles Grove is operating in compliance.
Staff recommended that the $5,000 to $7,000 remaining from an earlier donation to S.T.O.P. be approved, but Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau attempted to increase the amount to the $25,000 requested by S.T.O.P. to launch a legal challenge to try to stop the turbine, the source of approximately 500 noise and heath-related complaints from area residents.
S.T.O.P.’s believes a judicial review is required compliance of the MOECC classification of the property as semi-rural. S.T.O.P. argues the proper rural classification would have prevented construction of the turbine because its noise model tested above the 40 db limit.
Charbonneau, who said he receives citizen complaints about the turbine affecting them “almost on a daily basis”, called S.T.O.P.’s $25,000 request “reasonable” and pushed for “any actions” that would place requirements on local turbine operations.
Coun. Dave Myette, supports the Town’s involvement in the turbine battle, but not the timing. He suggested it might be more prudent to have the MOECC Manager attend a Saugeen Shores council meeting, as recently requested, and waiting for a response, before taking the MOECC to court. Staff said the MOECC official had accepted the invitation to speak with council about the Unifor turbine, possibly in April.
Deputy Mayor Diane Huber, who seconded Charbonneau’s amendment for $25,000,
CAO David Smith said it is “appropriate” for council to partially assist in the funding, but cautioned if they wanted to support the full amount they should get more legal advice as there is a “significant difference” between approving the full $25,000 and contributing to, or leading a court action. He noted that at an earlier meeting, those lawyers called S.T.O.P.’s judicial review legal challenge “unique” compared with other anti-turbine actions.
Coun Mike Myatt said he also has a “stack of complaints’ about the turbine operations, and said “once and for all we need to test this thing…” but agreed to heed the CAO’s caution.
Coun. Neil Menage said he also wants to support the fight against the turbine, because it is the “right thing” do do, but said the CAO’s “shot across the bow” was a warning they should heed, using “brain and heart”and not expose the Town to legal risk.
At this point, Charbonneau abandoned his motion to approve the requested $25,00o to S.T.O.P., and tabled a motion to defer the issue, pending legal advice, acknowledging that advise won’t be cheap, but is required.
In related news….
During the Open Forum session prior to the committee of the whole meeting, S.T.O. P. founder Greg Schmalz said the citizen group has already spent $75,000 in legal and acoustic testing, and face double jeopardy because they endure higher noise levels without proper setbacks from area homes. Currently provincial legislation would not allow construction of the Unifor turbine because of the setback issue.
“After 7 p.m., the critical period of property enjoyment and sleep, the neighbourhood takes on the characters of a rural setting, but [the MOECC] does not apply, but does not apply the reduced nightie levels enjoyed by other rural Ontario wind projects. Schmalz said repeated calls by the Town and S.T.O.P. to the MOECC for mandatory, not voluntary, noise testing, have been refused.
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